Progress From Beginner to Advanced Lower Body Exercises

Determined, muscular young woman doing squats with dumbbells in gym
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This lower body progression workout shows some examples of how to progress from beginner exercises to moves that are a little more advanced.

You'll know you're ready to move on to the next progression once you've mastered the move and can easily perform 2-3 sets of up to 16 reps with perfect form.  Use good form and see your doctor if you have any injuries or medical conditions.

Build Your Lower Body Workout

There are many ways you can use this chart to create your own lower body workout:

  • Option 1: Pick a column doing them one after the other circuit-style for 8-16 reps, repeating that circuit 1-3 times.
  • Option 2: Pick a column and do each exercise shown for straight sets, 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps with 30-60 seconds of rest in between.
  • Option 3: Mix and match from several columns - e.g., ball squats, assisted lunges, dumbbell deadlifts, etc.- and choose either circuit style or straight sets 


Intermediate Advanced

Chair Squat
For beginners, the chair or assisted squat is a great place to start when getting used to squats. Take the feet about hip distance apart and squat, taking the hips back while keeping the torso straight and the abs engaged.

Ball Squat
The ball can add great back support, but it can also add intensity because it allows you to squat lower. Keep the weight in the heels and hold weights for more intensity.
Dumbbell/Barbell Squat
Take the ball away and add heavy weights and you now have to use your own strength and muscle to keep good form.

Assisted Lunges
Lunges are a tough but excellent exercise because they work multiple muscles. Assisted lunges allow you to hold onto a wall for balance as you lunge up and down. Be sure to lunge straight down rather than forward, which can strain the knees.

Static Lunges
This more advanced version takes the chair away, forcing you to use your own muscles to stay balanced as you lunge. Adding weights will really increase the intensity.

Around the World Lunges
Your next progressions are these Around the World Lunges. Now you're going the lunge forward, squat out to the side and then lunge to the rear, hitting every muscle in the lower body. Add weights for more intensity.

Hip Hinge
Deadlifts are often hard to master, which is why I love the hip hinge. Use a broomstick and keep it in contact with your head and lower back as you hinge forward at the hips, knees just slightly bent the entire time.
Dumbbell Deadlifts
If you've perfected the hip hinge, adding weights is the next progression, which will really challenge your core, as well as your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
One Legged Deadlifts
Taking one foot behind you and keeping all your weight on the front leg will make this exercise even harder. Anytime you do something on one leg instead of two you'll be adding intensity.
Leg Lifts
The leg lift is a classic exercise that targets the glutes. It's shown here on a ball and can also be done on the floor.
Standing Leg Lifts
The standing leg lift is harder because you use more muscles to balance your body. Add intensity by using ankle weights.
Bent Over Ball Leg Lifts
This version is deceptively hard because the ball adds instability. Keep the hips square throughout the movement.

Inner-Thigh Ball Squeeze
This move is already pretty challenging, taking the ball up and squeezing it, only releasing about halfway. If this is too hard, keep the legs on the floor and lean back on your elbows.

Squat and Squeeze
Now we've taken the ball squeeze and changed it up a bit, making the ball a medicine ball and incorporating it into a squat, making this an even more intense exercise.

Squat With Inner Thigh Leg Lift
This becomes a compound move once you add a squat to the mix, making this a great lower body exercise that works multiple muscles. The resistance band really adds intensity.

One-Leg Press
If you don't have a leg press machine, this is one version you can do at home using a heavy band or tube. Just hold the handles and press the leg up and out.
Leg Press on Ball
By moving onto the ball you once again add instability to the move, so now you engage a number of muscle groups while you work. Push through the heels instead of the toes.
One-Legged Ball Press
By switching to one leg, you add intensity and a balance challenge. This is an advanced move, so be careful and put your hands down for balance, if needed.
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